Harmful Medication Blunders

Ways to keep your fur babies safe from accidental ingestions of medications within the home.

Our four-legged family members are curious and mischievous by nature. Unfortunately, medications become the subject of this curiosity when left within reach. Veterinarians often treat pets that have accidentally ingested medications within the home. To keep your pets healthy and prevent emergency trips to the veterinarian, you can practice medication safety in your home.


The best container to keep medication in is the container it was supplied in. These containers are labeled and can tell you who the medication was prescribed for along with the strength, dosage, form, and quantity of medication in the bottle. This information is important to know if there is an accidental ingestion. Even if you have limited information on what was ingested by your pet, the information on the container can help your veterinarian with determining the severity of the ingestion, and assist with any treatment your pet may need.

To help prevent medication mix-ups, designate separate storage locations for each human and animal medication. By keeping medication in different areas, you can avoid giving veterinary medication to the wrong pet in the house and avoid giving human medication to your pet. There are many over-the-counter and prescription human medications that can be harmful or even lethal to pets. Make sure to double check the label on medications when taking a dose or giving a dose to avoid accidental ingestions.


Pets have a natural sense of curiosity, and while you may think your medication is out of reach, your pet can prove you wrong. Dogs will counter surf, cats will find ways to open cabinets, birds will fly, and ferrets will climb. Pet proofing your home can help curb this curiosity and keep your pet safe.

In the eyes of a pet, a pill bottle can make a great chew toy, a bottle of eye drops is a fun object to bat around, the trash can is seen as a treasure chest, and a cabinet door is nothing more than a challenge to access the inside. You can use trash cans with locking lids, childproof locks on cabinets and drawers, and pet proof containers to keep even the nosiest pet out of your medications.

When you travel with medications, make sure all luggage is closed and stored away from your pet. Keep medications in individual containers with clear labels noting the amount of medication in the container, the name of the medication, and the strength of the medication. It may be tempting to put all of your medications into a plastic bag, but it only makes it easier for your pet to access several potential toxins in varying amounts.


Please ensure you follow recommendations for proper disposal of medications that are expired, unused, or unwanted. You can find resources on how to safely dispose of medications using the FDA’s website. This website also provides information for locating “take back” programs at your local veterinary clinic or pharmacy.


Written by:

Written by Kaylee Endres, PPH DVM student extern, Iowa State University, Class of 2023

Lizzy Olmsted, CVT, Veterinary Information Specialist, Pet Poison Helpline®